Problems with Haitian land rights: nowhere to call home

This article is excellent on one of the mounting problems in Port-au-Prince, namely the sudden absence of well-functioning land rights (which were hardly ideal in the first place).  The earthquake destroyed a lot of homes, stores, and plots and now many of the owners cannot be located.  So it's hard to determine what can be done with the property.  Ideally it should be razed, rebuilt, and dedicated to some new uses but as it stands a lot of activity is simply frozen.

Or maye it is known that the owner is now dead and the estate has not been settled and won't be settled anytime soon.

Here is one quotation:

“We have the stocks to shelter a lot of people. We do not have the land to put them on. I cannot invent land,' Gregg McDonald, lead coordinator for the U.N. shelter cluster said. “There are lots of discussions going on around land, and land issues. Nothing is resolved.''

Even if all the owners were identified, present, and in a position to deal, there is then the famous Grossman-Hart 1980 free-rider problem.  "Urban renewal" can bring big increases in value, but the individual incentive is to be a hold-out on the sales front and capture those value increases, rather than sell out at the earliest possible moment.

Haiti right now has a massive scarcity of land  — in the legally usable sense — and is facing a massive recalculation problem as a result.  Keep in mind that in relative terms, land is a more important part of the Haitian economy than almost anywhere else.  After food, land is arguably the most important market in the Haitian economy and that has ceased to work.

This disaster-related problem is frequently overlooked and kudos to The Miami Herald for publishing an intelligent article on it.

Addendum: Here is an update on Haitian education.


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